Be observant today and take note fo the needs of others. Attempt to take actions that benefit other people today. Instead of seeking approval or reward, simply perform actions that benefit other people because action is needed. As you perform actions that benefit others, take note of how you feel. What changes in your mind, body, and spirit do you perceive?
Call your father on the telephone or converse with a father figure. Find out what is important to him and what makes him tick. After this conversation, thing about what he said. What from this conversation can you use as a guide today? What from this conversation made you feel uncomfortable? Why do you suppose you felt discomfort or not? Is there anything in this male power symbol that stirs your emotions in one direction or another? Now think about your family life. What was you relationship to your own father (or father figure)? Cans you draw parallels from your own father to the image of the provider?
Today is a Monday, and in this term, my Mondays are packed. I wake up, clean up my room, get ready for the day, and go to class for three hours. There’s an hour for lunch, then I work at the UO writing lab for the next four hours. Then there’s about an hour to have a snack, get caught up with SCA business, then attend a corporate meeting for an hour or two. Then there’s dinner. By that point, it’s 8 pm and I’m–quite frankly–a little bit done with people.
Why is this relevant? Look at paragraph one of this exercise. “Take note of the needs of others.” Mondays are currently not an “others” day, and I’m not really sure I kept this on my radar. I helped one of my favorite students, Yin-Chen, for an hour and a half today on her thesis project about tongzhi in Taiwanese cinema. I didn’t have to spend all that time with her, but she needed it and I wanted to do it. It certainly exercised my mind–she’s one of the more sophisticated thinkers I see at the writing lab–and I felt energized during the process, and pretty happy when she left. I think there were some provider aspects to this relationship: I was trying to be effective and efficient, to give her feedback that would help her on the rest of her project, and I was trying to fulfill her need.
Of course, it was my job…so that’s not entirely that sort of selfless need-filling that the provider embodies.
The second part of today’s exercise was also thwarted. I couldn’t get Dad to answer the phone! And I could have really used a nice Dad conversation, too. He is one of the more thoughtful people I know–he really puts me to shame. There was one time when he and I were driving to Pennsylvania and this Phil Collins song came on the radio–“Can’t Stop Loving You.” It struck a chord for both of us, and we sort of sang along and then discussed the song, it’s poetic intentions, and about Collins, Genesis, and 80s music in general. That fall on my last day of work before leaving to go back to college, I found a burned CD on my desk. It was “Testify,” the Collins album that features “Can’t Stop Loving You.” I still think about that whenever I’m in an “I need a hug” mood.
In a similar vein, my dad sends me dried apricots and smoked almonds in the mail because that was our main snack food on my move to Oregon. He buys them at Costco. I have more dried apricots and smoked almonds than I know what to do with.
So my dad can be an incredibly sweet, thoughtful man who knows how to supply exactly what a person needs, even if he or she doesn’t know it is needed. But he can also transcend cruelty. When he is upset, he goes for the jugular–and his upset is entirely fueled by anger and impatience, by feeling trapped by limitations in his life. I think part of it is that he tries too hard to be successful at his job and works too much. I wouldn’t have had much of a relationship with my father had I not worked for him from ages 14-22. When he experiences a setback of some sort, he takes it out on the rest of us.
I think my dad models the Provider very well, and I think I can understand this god-form and empathize with it. It is not an enviable position. Your failures have massive repercussions and your successes have little fanfare. It is hard to be a good Provider. It requires (and consumes) a lot of energy, as all the fire elements in his correspondences would indicate, and has a high potential for dramatic destruction because of it. I think it’s even a little scary: I’m personally terrified to become my own provider. The buck stops with you.